by Mike Telin

Ferguson-PaulI’m kind of all over the map right now,” says trombonist, educator composer, arranger and band leader Paul Ferguson. In addition to serving as associate artistic director of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and director of jazz studies at Case Western Reserve University, Ferguson’s current projects include commissions from the University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble and the Nordonia Junior High Jazz Band, and he has recently finished arranging the twelve trio sonatas by Henry Purcell for three trombones or any three bass clef instruments as well as some sacred music for jazz ensemble.

He is also putting the finishing touches on arrangements for rock singer Todd Rundgren, who will be performing with the Akron Symphony later this month. But this Friday, August 16, Paul Ferguson will put on his performer’s hat when he brings his Quintet to Tremont’s Lincoln Park for a free evening of jazz beginning at 7:00 pm. Part of the Arts in August series, the concert is presented in collaboration with the Tremont West Development Corporation and Arts Renaissance Tremont (ART).

The Paul Ferguson Quintet includes Ferguson on trombone, the outstanding vocalist Evelyn Wright, and a rhythm section comprised of Dan Maier on piano, Aidan Plank on bass and Mark Gonder on drums. “The concert will include a lot of American popular songs by the likes of George Gershwin and Irving Berlin, and I’ll sneak in a few of my own compositions,” says Ferguson. “This way people will get to hear a lot of recognizable tunes as well as the chance to hear something new.”

Many may remember that two years ago Ferguson delighted Arts in August audiences with his big band, but the quintet, Ferguson says, allows everyone to highlight the essence of jazz performance. “With a big band everybody has music in front of them that is a mixture of music that is written out combined with improvised passages. But accomplished jazz players like these don’t need to use music,” he explains. “I’ll bring music for my pieces, but in a jazz combo it’s just five of us who share what I would call a common tribal language. There are about two hundred songs that we all know so I’ll just tell them we’re going to play Jerome Kern’s All the Things You Are or Cole Porter’s Night and Day, or even Harold Arlen’s Lets Fall in Love. Everybody knows these tunes so I just give them the key and we play. Of course I’ll meet with Evelyn and ask her what songs she’d like to sing.”

For anyone who has not had the chance to hear vocalist Evelyn Wright in performance, Ferguson says this is an opportunity not to be missed. “I love Evelyn, she’s one of my favorite singers. I just wrote four arrangements last Christmas for her to sing with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. And two years ago we recorded a CD, Live at the Bop-Stop where she sang four or five of my arrangements. She’s just a wonderful person and singer.”

Audiences are invited to bring a blanket and a picnic. In case of rain, the concert will be held at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ.

Published on ClevelandClassical.com August 13, 2013

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